The crisis of Ukraine and Russia: what you need to know when diplomacy intensifies

Diplomatic efforts to stop what US officials have warned could be an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine are moving to a new round on Monday as Germany’s chancellor heads to Kyiv. Here’s a look at what’s going on and why.

BERLIN (AP) – Diplomatic efforts to stop what US officials have warned could be an imminent Russian attack on Ukraine have entered a new round on Monday. Russia’s top diplomat advised President Vladimir Putin to continue talks, and the German chancellor met with the Ukrainian president.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom said that Europe is “on the brink of a breakthrough”, citing a warning from America that Russia could invade Ukraine in the next 48 hours. But he said Putin still had time to “retreat”.

In a speech to the cameras, Russia’s foreign minister said opportunities for talks had not yet been exhausted. It seemed to be intended to convey that Putin himself believes that hopes for a diplomatic solution have not yet faded.

Here’s a look at what’s going on, where and why:

WHAT WILL LEAD FROM RUSSIA?

On Monday, the Kremlin showed that it is ready to continue talks with the West on security issues that have led to the current crisis, hoping that Russia cannot invade Ukraine in a few days, which is increasingly feared by Western officials.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with Putin that Moscow should talk more with the United States and its allies, despite the fact that they refuse to consider Russia’s main demands.

Lavrov said the talks “cannot go on indefinitely, but I would suggest continuing and expanding them at this stage.” He noted that Washington had offered to discuss restrictions on missile deployment in Europe, restrictions on military exercises and other confidence-building measures.

Asked by Putin whether it made sense to continue diplomatic efforts, Lavrov said that the opportunities for talks were “far from exhausted” and suggested continuing the talks. He said his ministry would not allow the United States and its allies to stop Russia’s major requests.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN UKRAINE?

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz brought a message of solidarity to Kyiv, in which he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are not negotiable.

Scholz, who visited Putin ahead of a meeting with Putin in Moscow on Tuesday, demanded that Russia “take clear steps to de-escalate current tensions.” He thanked the Ukrainian government for “a sober and restrained response to a very serious and threatening situation.”

Scholz noted that NATO and the United States have made proposals to Moscow that Germany supports, “and now we are waiting for a response from Russia.” He called on Russia to accept the proposals for dialogue.

The German chancellor said that in the event of a military escalation “we are ready for very far-reaching and effective sanctions in consultation with our allies” and that “we know what to do” if Russia again violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

He once again did not specify what it will be. As expected, there has been no shift in Germany’s refusal to join some allies in supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Zelensky said tensions over his country’s future were “an unprecedented challenge for Europe and the world.”

“It is in Ukraine today that the future of European security architecture, of which our state is a part, is being decided.”

WHEN COULD RUSSIA MAKE MOVEMENT?

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson said that Europe is “on the brink”, citing a warning from America that Russia could invade Ukraine in the next 48 hours.

“But President Putin still has time to step down,” Johnson said.

Johnson called for a unified response from NATO. He said “the world needs to learn the lesson of 2014” when not enough was done to move away from Russian gas and oil following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and activity in eastern Ukraine.

He said that Europe should get rid of “Russian hydrocarbons” and reiterated his call for the breakdown of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Johnson’s spokesman Max Blaine declined to say whether Britain had agreed with the US that Wednesday was a potential date for the invasion. But he said “there is a high probability of an invasion this week.”

Separately, the head of Sweden’s non-NATO armed forces said Russia had “all the necessary capabilities along the Ukrainian border for a military operation.”

“We do not rule anything out,” – the head of the Swedish Armed Forces, General Mikael Biden. “Whether it will happen today, Wednesday or a week later, we do not know.”

AND WHAT IF THE DREAMS FAIL?

Poland is preparing to accept Ukrainian refugees in the event of another Russian attack on its neighbor. But the Polish government hopes the worst-case scenario can be prevented.

Similar training is underway throughout the region, especially in countries bordering Ukraine.

Poland, which has welcomed large numbers of Ukrainian economic migrants in recent years, especially since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, has been making plans to accept refugees for weeks, Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Pszydac said.

HOW DOES THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE BECOME?

Zelensky won a convincing victory in 2019. As a political newcomer who is unlikely to run for office, he has vowed to contact Russian-backed rebels in the east who have fought Ukrainian forces and seek a solution to the conflict.

But Zelensky watches as his once huge support disappears as Ukraine faces fear of a Russian invasion that could seize not only rebel regions but possibly the rest of the country.

What’s worse, the incumbent president, whom Zelensky defeated in 2019, has boldly returned to the country to face charges of treason and provoke opposition against him. Analysts believe that Moscow is seeking to strengthen support for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine and that the build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border is partly aimed at destabilizing the country’s policy.

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Yuras Karmanov in Kyiv, Ukraine, Vladimir Isachenko in Moscow, Jill Lawless in London, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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